NAME: Varsha Lekkalwar
LOCATION: Bhendvi, Rajura Taluka, Chandrapur
OCCUPATION: Pustak Pari (community volunteer)
Bhendvi is a multi-language, tribal village on the border of Maharashtra and sits close to the border of Telegana, where people speak one or two of five different languages. As a result, school numbers are low, with many children finding the language of instruction, Marathi, difficult.
But Varsha Lekkalwar, a volunteer ‘Pustak Pari’ helped change that during the pandemic - bringing education and reading to life in her creative reading classes, which were initiated by ACF to keep children engaged in education and enhance literacy levels.
A passionate reader herself, who, in childhood, would read anything she could get her hands on, Varsha creates lesson plans, invents interactive games and harnesses children’s imaginations in each and every session. This on top of running a farm, a viable sewing business and raising her own children - Varsha juggles it all with great gusto!
• READING CLASSES – With children being taught as per their level (not their grade), Varsha facilitates 4 groups for up to 4 hours a day. A recent midterm evaluation showed that of her 38 students, 30 are competent in alphabets, composite letters and complex words of the Marathi language – with 22 children reading a newspaper clearly too.
• AGRICULTURE – A marginal farmer, Varsha grows cotton and pulses on her 2 acre rainfed agricultural land, working it once she completes her reading classes. It’s a profitable enterprise, due to her being savvy, and brings Rs. 1.5 lakhs into the household each year.
• TAILORING BUSINESS – A self-taught seamstress, Varsha runs a sideline tailoring business from her home, and when she comes home from the field, she spends hours at her sewing machine fulfilling local orders for sari blouses, kurta and salwar kameez – earning Rs. 5000 per month as a result.
• MOTHER & HOMEMAKER – With three children of her own, aged 15, 13 and 10, Varsha has her hands full in the home also. Rising early in the morning, and working till late at night, she is busy cooking, cleaning and laundering for her full household.
Becoming a Pustak Pari has fulfilled a lifelong dream of Varsha’s to teach, and today, as she wanders the village, whenever she spots kids ‘whiling away their time’ she invites them over and thrusts a book in their hand.